Saturday, March 31, 2012

Florida Springtime and Palm Sunday

The view from our back porch this morning
Spring time in Floridais beautiful. I love throwing open the French doors when I bring Rebekah her morning coffee, letting 65-degree air freshen up the house, and enjoying the wash of fresh color as so many flowers put on their best show at this time of the year.
It’s our last splurge of open-window air before we hit the long summer stretch of 24/7 air-conditioning and 99% humidity. Soon we’ll have to give Scout her summer hair-cut, check my supply of shorts and sandals, and say goodbye to jeans till we get the other side of Thanksgiving.
THANKFUL: I used to resent the summer here. I admit that I’ve been known to whine about the heat and long for some cool mountain air (and, if we have a repeat of last week’s AC emergency, I’m sure I’ll be complaining again…). But I’m really not sure I could pull off that level of self-absorption any more. I certainly hope not.
The Church of the Resurrection - Jerusalem
You see, there’s been a shift in my foundational orientation toward temporary things – such as life, mortality, possessions and the world around me. And I believe it’s largely because of Lent and because of my commitment to more deliberately engage the meaning of Easter.
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:53-54
The value I’m attaching to ideas such as comfort and convenience has been seriously compromised, and there are – I believe – three explanations:
  1. My brother Geoff’s recent journey to the end of his life.
  2. Our pilgrimage to the Holy Lands and the progressive opening of my eyes.
  3. The REACHING TOWARD EASTER  initiative and how this ongoing study has continued to inform my personal journey.
My journey to Easter
PALM SUNDAY: And so tomorrow – Palm Sunday – kicks off the observance of Holy Week. There is no place to begin this stage of the journey to Easter other than at church, with a life-charged community of faith.
If you don’t have plans to attend somewhere else, I’d like to invite each one of you  to join us at the First Presbyterian Church of Brandon . We have two services, 8:30 and 11:00.
With Easter just another week ahead, I’d like to challenge everyone to be deliberate and focused through HOLY WEEK, starting with Palm Sunday. Make sure that you take in the gravity, the promise, the hope and the eternity that is bound up in the week-long Passion of Christ.
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:5–55

Friday, March 30, 2012

My new column for The Christian Voice

This morning I’m announcing a new project I’m involved with locally. Beginning this month, I’ll be writing a regular column for THE CHRISTIAN VOICE MONTHLY, a Tampa news-magazine owned by THE OSPREY OBSERVER. I’d like you to check the link and then let me know what you think.

Peace and blessings – DEREK
New column

Live Like You Mean It: “Let Your Song Find Its Voice”

By Derek Maul
Derek Maul has written columns for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad and FOCUS Magazine. His features have been published in Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications.
Welcome to “Live Like You Mean It,” a new column about what it means to experience the fully engaged Christian life.
If I had to identify one filter through which I pour the majority of my writing, it would be the following passage from First Timothy: “Command [people] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (6:18-19).
My primary interest as a columnist is this idea of “The life that is truly life.” However, having been around church since childhood, I have observed little widespread evidence of what Jesus describes as abundant life. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
This is an especially challenging question during the time known as “Lent,” the weeks leading up to the celebration of Easter. Jesus was willing to take a deliberate journey to Jerusalem, crystal clear in his heart and mind regarding what would happen when he arrived.
Surely Christ didn’t willingly go to the cross so that his followers could merely check “attend church” off their list before returning to uninspired lives of business as usual?
No, Jesus means to shake things up, and to disrupt the status quo.
In my latest book, 10 Life-Charged Words, being released in June 2012, I quote Henry David Thoreau’s lament concerning his belief that most people fall short when it comes to the life that is truly life. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” (Walden, 1854).
My mission through writing is a positive response to the “live like we mean it” imperative. God wants us to experience a life defined by fullness. Life-charged people let their song find its voice.
Or expressed in another way, “The content of this column is about the process of Letting Life Loose.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

my so-called "normal" life

Celebrating my birthday with the immediate family: l-r: Craig, David, Naomi, Andrew, Rebekah, Derek
This morning it appears that I pretty much have nothing to post. Essentially, I’ve determined it’s time to get back to my so-called “normal” life. What that means is:
Check my calendar… actually follow-up on some of my more routine assignments… begin to write the news articles I’ve been putting off for the past few weeks… finally get around to doing my taxes (maybe)… get on the phone and scare up some new work… schedule a round of golf (that’s more like it!)….
SURPRISE: I really didn’t expect to disengage with life so thoroughly. And I honestly didn’t know that I had, until I started the process of reentry and realized just how far I had wandered.
So – today – I’m going to ground myself in two things, and take it from there.
  • First, my family. I know this sounds cliché but these past few weeks have done a lot in terms of helping me to understand the strength, the extent and the gravity of those ties. Our children – Andrew, Naomi and Craig – travelled so far and gave so much in order to simply be present. Their faithfulness blew me away. In some respects that simple act told me more than I ever thought I knew about what it means to be this family.
  • Then, God’s Word. We talked about this at my small group Wednesday evening. Eric quoted my writing from REACHING TOWARD EASTER and we talked about what it might mean in our day-to-day lives. I’ll paste in the quote and let it speak for itself.
Jesus pointed to God’s Word as truth. The power of evil is resourceful; but God’s Word is a sword more than equal to the task. It is imperative that we immerse ourselves in truth so we are more than ready to take our stand when the time comes. How might you use scripture as the sword of truth today? – page 102
So my plan is twofold: simplify and enjoy. I’m already well-grounded; I just need to live more consciously in the truth of what I already know.
Peace – DEREK

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"How did we do?" - a conversation with 1959

Reaching out through time...
Yesterday I had lunchwith my parents. Afterwards, and over a cup of tea (we also had a cup of tea before lunch… and one during lunch… and another one before I left), my mum pulled out some old family photo albums. Mostly, they were pictures from the 1950′s, when my folks were the same age that my children are today.
The air around the photo albums was heavy with memory. Not only memories but actual slices of hope, promise, and yearning. In some cases it was as if the images themselves participated in the dialogue, shared their thoughts about the life they led between then and now, reached out and touched us….
FAVORITE: My favorites were this image – above – captured when I was three, and then one with my brother, Geoff, taken at the same time.
We were in all likelihood on the hills behind my hometown of Folkestone, or maybe up on the cliffs at Dover, around eight miles down the coast.
checking out some old family photographs - taken in the South of England, 1959
CONVERSATION THROUGH TIME: I’m wondering what three-year-old Derek is speaking to me, out through the photograph and into the sands of time? It looks to me as if I had heard something – maybe a strand of dialogue – and I turned around to catch the drift of the conversation.
And there was my dad, chewing at the end of a long piece of grass, leaning on one hand while balancing his camera in the other. And there was I, thinking about something I wouldn’t know how to write down in words for another 53 years.
“Hello, 56-year-old me,” he says, clearly and with a child-like and pointedly English lilt; “Remember how the breeze blows in off the English Channel, and we’d sit here and count the ships passing through? Well today (1959) we counted 43 that we could easily see. Five of them are ferries on the way between Folkestone and France.”
He was right. The Straights of Dover (or the Pas-de-Calais as the French call it) are only 22 miles wide at that point. The place was packed with shipping and we could see all the way to France, sometimes picking out buildings in the town of Calais.
“And Geoff was going on again about how one day he’s going to be on one of those boats; only it isn’t going to stop when he gets to France. He said he wants to see the whole wide world….”
HOW DID WE DO? ”And what are you going to do when Geoff is off finding the whole wide world, and finding himself in the process,” I ask?
Three-year-old Me pauses, looks out into the whole wide world, and turns back. “I guess I’ll tag along and see that he doesn’t get into too much trouble. I’ll probably have to hold one end of his kite for him while he runs down the hill with his end of the string. Then he’ll yell, ‘LET GO!’ only I won’t know when.”
Enjoying birthday time with David, my new window into the future
Three-year-old Me looks out again, back into 2012 and through the sands of time. Now we’re making eye contact and I’m thinking about his brother – my brother, off again and into another new adventure. And I’m not sure yet that it’s OK that I let go of my end of the string and watch the kite sail quietly off into the heavens….
And Three-year-old Me fixes me with those eyes.
“So how did we do? Really. How did we do?”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

photographs that help memories

Being a goofy grandaddy
I know this is a writing blog. However, I also feel that I have developed a real relationship with those of you who read on a regular basis, and so this morning I want to share some photographs from this weekend that will do a better job than my words when it comes to telling this part of the story.
First, and I know this could be a long post all by itself, I got to enjoy some quality grandaddy-time with five-month-old David. This opening photo may not show the brightest smile or the most compelling pose… but it tells the story, and I believe that’s what the best images do. My weekend with David was a series of negotiations around, “Who is this goofy-looking guy and why do his eyes fill up with tears whenever he looks at me?” and, “But there’s something about him? I guess I could smile at least once in a while…”
This pic was taken yesterday, on my birthday. What an unforgettable birthday present, to have the entire family at home – it’s the best I could have dreamed.

Absorbing a lot of grandmama love
Second (of seven), Rebekah got to enjoy David too. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that she is head-over-heals in love with our grandchild. And David knows it. It’s obvious he can sense exactly what’s going on when Rebekah holds him.
There’s a lot of data out there about the dangerous effects of neglect and isolation when a child’s development is getting under way. Babies literally absorb the love and the caring and the interaction around them. David knows how deeply he is loved and cared for, he knows the truth of it down to his bones. And he sees the truth of it so vividly in his grandmama Rebekah.

The Craig & Naomi Campbell family
Number Three: David’s Dad and his Mommy love him, and they love one-another too. OK, friends, this is huge. Rebekah and I say this to young families all the time. The best thing anyone can do for the health and wellbeing of their child is to love each other like crazy. Dads, wanna do what’s right for your kid? Love their mom. Moms, wanna help your child thrive? Love, love, love their dad.
I do a lot of writing for coach Tony Dungy’s website. The number one thing I tell these guys – over 100,000 per month – is, “Your best dad thing possible is to love and respect and serve their mother.” Way to go, son-in-law Craig; you are so taking care of my grandson!

Isla and David. We almost signed a contract for a 2035 wedding...
Four: Short version of a long story. Naomi’s best friend growing up, Katie (Ronan), came over for lunch Saturday with her husband, Pat, and their daughter, Isla. There are lot’s of great pics I could share, but we have this baby theme going so here’s just the two of them together.
Okay, not just a baby theme but a cuteness theme. Good grief. You absolutely have to go to my facebook page and take a look at the rest of these photographs. They’re too many and too wonderful to pack into a blog post. Ditto the David pics in our back garden.

Under the cyprus tree in our back garden
Five: Talking of the MaulHall garden pics, here’s a sample. David himself wasn’t so sure about the game we were playing, “They keep propping me up and running away. Then they yell ‘Smile David!’ Ridiculous… like I’m going to do that….”
But I was seriously impressed with David’s patience with his parents and grandparents. This picture is only one of a dozen “keepers.” Like I said, cuteness and lots of it.
One note about the hat. It was his uncle Andrew’s hat back when he was a baby. We have some photos of Andrew wearing it when he was around a year old, fishing with his grandaddy Bob. Oh, the stories a good picture can tell.

"Travel Guy" and his mama at TPA
Six: We’re winding down here; only so much space in a blog post. Monday was all day go-to-the-airport day. First up was Andrew. We headed to Tampa International around noon and he flew to Charlotte, Paris (I think) and then Pisa. Andrew’s all, “Enough with the photos dad! You’re like the paparazzi.”
Fair enough. But here he is anyway. Safe travels and thanks for being so committed to the idea of family that you flew in – last-minute – all the way from Italy. “Travel Guy” saves the day!
Seriously, Andrew’s determination to be at significant family events is a heart-warmer we’re so grateful for. What a great son!

Orlando airport. What a great family!
Seven, and last: Late afternoon I drove Naomi-Craig-David over to Orlando for their flight to Connecticut. Again with the gratitude. Craig didn’t just say, “I support you going to Florida, Naomi.” Instead he said, “I’m doing what’s necessary to come along too.”
Maybe Geoff was just that cool an uncle! Well, yes. And maybe we’re just that blessed as a family. Whatever it is, Rebekah and I recognize how good this phenomenon is, and we’re grateful for the quality of love that brings us together.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1